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Authors: Violet Blaze

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BOOK: Stepbrother Thief
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I make myself look up at my stepbrother's face, still impassive, still no sign of his feelings—if he even has any.

“Right now, I feel the same way. I believe that you'll take care of everything, but I'm afraid of how you're going to do it.”

I walk past him, careful to keep my arm from touching his, and head towards the stairs.

Gill follows behind me, his footsteps heavy and solid. But he doesn't say anything, not one damn thing.


This
is where you live?” Solène asks, pressing her hands against the car window and gazing up at Gill's four thousand square foot Colonial. She's spent her entire life living in apartments, and I feel a small smile hit my lips when I imagine her actually having a yard of her own to play in. Hey, as much as I love the city, suburbia definitely has its upsides. “It's positively enormous.” She sits back and brushes some hair behind her ear. “
J'adore ça, c'est tellement joli.

I love it; it's so pretty.

I stare at the back of my stepbrother's head, trying to keep my cool. The more time I spend around him, the harder it seems to get. I clench the leather seat beneath me in tight fingers.

“What do you think, Regi?” Solène asks, reaching over and poking me in the bloodied jeans. We didn't tell her anything about what happened today—after all she doesn't even know about the heist. All I said was that I fell and left it at that. I wrap my fingers around hers and give them a quick squeeze.

“It's nice,” I admit begrudgingly, but I can't bring myself to feel anything when I look at the house. “A little large for a single guy though,” I add, unable to keep from picking at Gilleon. He
knew
we were going to be staying with him, even planned for it by buying some suburban wonderland in Mount freaking Baker. I feel a childish urge to kick the back of his seat come over me but push it back.
Fuck him. Yeah, that's right. Fuck you, Gill.

“Is there anyone else living here?” Cliff asks, his face scrunching up as Gill pulls into the driveway and turns off the ignition.

“No.” One word, crisp and curt. Gill hasn't spoken since we left the hotel, leaving the three of us to talk around him, his presence like a dark cloud shadowing our conversation.

“Well, it's beautiful anyway, son. You've done well for yourself.” Cliff reaches over and grips his son's shoulder. I see Gill stiffen, but I can't watch anymore of this, so I climb out and look around the neighborhood, at the mature trees with their red and gold leaves, the perfect lawns and the well-trimmed hedges. Hopefully nobody will try to shoot at me here.

“Come inside,” Gill says from behind me, his breath warm on the back of my neck. When I spin around to glare at him, his face is still a blank mask, his muscles tight with tension. “I don't expect any trouble here, but it never hurts to be safe.”

“Yeah, okay.” I step around him and move towards the front door when I feel his fingers curl around my upper arm. That simple touch is enough to make my knees weak, my head spin. “Let go,” I say, my voice strong, words clear.

“I'm sorry about what happened today. If I'd have thought there was any chance—”

“So you do make mistakes?” I ask, glancing back at him and raising an eyebrow. “Gilleon Marchal isn't as perfect as he pretends to be?”

“I'm not perfect,” Gill growls, his jaw clenching and his fingers tightening on my arm. “And I make mistakes, Regina. You should know that better than anyone.” I wrench myself from Gill's grip and try to still the rapid thumping of my heart. Rage consumes me like a flame, and it takes some considerable effort on my part not to respond to that. There are so many things I want to say, words that I've kept locked up inside for over ten years.

“Don't push me, Gill,” I tell him as I climb up the cement steps to the front door, the wind picking at my hair and sending it flying around my face like a veil. “I'm trying to stay positive here, but I'm losing patience and I'm losing it
quick.

“What can I do to make this easier on you?” he asks, coming up right beside me, using those long, strong legs of his to make up the difference in distance. “Tell me and it's done.”

“Gill,” I say, turning to look at him, hating how badly my heart aches when I look into his face. He's a man now, strong and beautiful—and he should've been mine. I should've been able to watch the transformation, to be a part of it, to shape him the same way he should've shaped me. We could've been partners, lovers, best friends. This house right here, it could've been ours. It could have been
ours.
“What I want is for you to stay away from me. I want you to figure out what the
fuck
is up with this Karl guy and I want you to do your best to make sure that Cliff and Solène don't get shot and killed over a bag of stupid shiny rocks!” My voice raises in pitch until I think I'm yelling and have to force myself to close my eyes and calm down.

I don't want to be mad at Gill, to hold onto this anger. It isn't healthy and it isn't helping, but I can't be around him. I just can't do it. I'm not sure what hurts worse: the expressionless mask he wears or the cracks I keep seeing in it.

“Get it done, Gill,” I say, opening my eyes back up and locking gazes with him. “Get it done, get us our money, and get the hell out of our lives.”

I move into the house and—despite the fact that it belongs to Gill—I slam the front door and lock it behind me.

My bedroom has a balcony and a view of Lake Washington, not to mention original hardwood floors, a small sitting room, and a fireplace.
Holy crap.
If I had to take a guess, I'd say this house was worth a clean million—maybe a million and a half. But then, I guess that's chump change when you're an international jewelry thief?

“This is clearly the master,” I tell Cliff again when I lean into the hallway and smile at Solène as she races around the second floor, exploring each and every nook and cranny in the house. “Are you sure you're okay with me taking it?”

“Take it,” Cliff says, smiling at me through the gray stubble on his chin. “You deserve it.” I know Cliff loves me, know that he's one of the best friends I've ever had or will have, but sometimes I feel like he does things for me to try to make up for Gill. I hate it when he does that.

“Thanks,” I say tentatively, wondering why Gill himself hasn't taken up residence in the master. There's a king-sized bed in here, a nightstand, a dresser, and two chairs in the sitting room with a coffee table between them. Otherwise, it's empty. I mean
completely
empty. No pictures, no vases, no lamps, nothing but two white pillows and a white duvet on the bed.

Gilleon's room, on the other hand, has a mussed up bed, a closet full of clothes, a rug, some pictures of his dad, of Solène … of me. I almost took that one back, confiscated it and shoved it to the bottom of my shopping bags so I didn't have to look at it. For whatever reason, Gill has a family portrait sitting on his dresser—a shot of my mom, Cliff, me, and him at our parents' wedding.

I'm so confused right now.

“I'm gonna lie down and take a quick nap,” I tell Cliff and retreat back into my room, closing the door behind me. A quick glance out the curtain-free windows shows me Gilleon standing on the lawn, his cell pressed to his ear as he paces back and forth and talks to God only knows who. I wonder what the neighbors here think of him, this big, burly guy with his steel toed boots and his mean face.

Like he can sense me looking his way, Gill turns and glances up at my window, forcing me to take a step back. Shivers break across my skin.

I shake out my hands and take a deep breath, sitting down on the edge of the bed and pulling off my new boots. Even though I thoroughly washed my hands and picked out the bits of grit and rocks that had stuck in my open wounds, every little movement of my fingers hurts. I grit my teeth and toss the shoes to the floor, slipping out of my new jeans and double-checking to make sure I locked the door before I slip out of my bra and decide on just the tee and panties. In my desperation to build up a new wardrobe, I forgot about pajamas entirely. Oh well.

I pause on my way to the bathroom, my eyes catching on my purse. The sight of my mother in her chic white wedding dress, her eyes sparkling with happiness … I find myself drawn to the bag, taking it back to the bed and dumping it out on the white comforter. Every picture I have of her is with me, every piece of jewelry, a few pieces of paper with her handwriting on them. The big things, the ones I knew I couldn't take with me, like my mother's vintage nightstand with the hand-carved roses, I finally gave in and sold them to some friends of mine in Paris. I bought new chairs, just to keep up the illusion that everything was fine, everything was normal.

I shift through the photos with a sad smile on my face, trying really, really hard not to miss my dad or my sister or … Gill. I shove the pictures away and pick up the diamond pendant necklace, lacing it around my throat and struggling with the clasp for a moment before I finally get it in place. I wasn't sure if I'd have the stomach to wear diamonds after the heist—it just felt distasteful—but this piece … it holds too many good memories to be tainted.

“What would you have to say about all this, Mom?” I ask the necklace, fingering the diamond between my injured fingers. “About Gill leaving? About the heist? About …” I can't even make my lips form the words that I want to say. Instead, I let the subject drop and curl into a ball on the bed. Outside, the rain starts up again and batters the windows, lulling me into a deep but fitful sleep.

I open the door to my apartment, hands trembling. Behind me, Gill says nothing, acting as if this is all for real, every single second of it.

“Take yourself there, Regina, and let yourself believe it. If you do, then so will they.”

That's what he'd said last week when we'd gone over the plan again. And again. And again.

So. Gill is going to abduct me at gunpoint, walk me to the store where I'm suppose to open for the morning, and use me to find the safe. The security guards who're supposed to be on duty, and the ones who are supposed to switch shifts with them, have already been dealt with.

Dealt with.

When Gill had first said those words to me, I'd trembled in my seat. I know it seems silly to be afraid of someone that I was once so close with but … there's something different about Gill's face now, some emptiness that I feel could swallow him whole and leave him a barren black nothing.

I don't say anything though, don't let my memories overwhelm me, and glance over my shoulder. Sure enough, Gill's gun is hidden in the folds of his coat and I can't see a thing. We'll make it to the store without anyone realizing what's going on.

“Why vintage jewelry?” I'd asked Gill when he'd come to me and started to explain his plan. He and his crew would rob my store, whether I was involved or not, but if I helped, if I made things just that much easier for them, he'd give me a cut, give me a new life in the States where I'd never have to worry about money again.

That wasn't what motivated me; money doesn't motivate me at all.

BOOK: Stepbrother Thief
2.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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